To Build Up and To Destroy: Day 8

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Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.’

 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever. In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David. – II Samuel 7:1-17


Hats off to Yahweh with the excellent play on words!

David: I need to make God a house

God: I’m going to make you into a house… see what I did there?

David’s heart is in the right place. He’s gone from lowly shepherd to king of Israel and he credits God for getting him to where he is. He wants to show God some love.

And it’s not an unreasonable idea. I have a house. God should have a house. It kinda makes sense.

David made two mistakes, as I see it.

First, he assumes that God needs something from him. I’ve been there. The arrogance to think that if I don’t do something, it won’t get done and God’s purposes won’t be met. I’ve been that guy.

God doesn’t need anything from us. God’s not dependent on us or beholden to us. God moves in total freedom, independent on the whims of humanity.

Now, God does, I believe, want things from us. And those things that God wants are rarely things. God wants us to act in love and to pursue justice. God woos us and persuades us towards those ends. But God does not need us.

David’s second mistake was believing that God could be contained. Again, God moves in freedom. God does not need a box.

I’m reminded of the lyrics of one of my favorite Gungor songs:

“Cannot Keep You” by Michael Gungor
They tried to keep you in a tent
They could not keep you in a temple
Or any of their idols
To see and understand
We cannot keep you in a church
We cannot keep you in a Bible
It’s just another idol
To box you in
They could not keep you in their walls
We cannot keep you in ours either
For You are so much greater
Who is like the Lord?
The maker of the heavens
Who dwells with the poor
He lifts them from the ashes
And seats them among princes
Who is like the Lord?
We’ve tried to keep you in a tent
We’ve tried to keep you in a temples
We’ve worshiped all their idols
We want all that to end
So we will find you in the streets
And we will find you in the prisons
And even in our Bibles, and churches
Who is like the Lord?
The maker of the heavens
Who dwells with the poor
He lifts them from the ashes
And seats them among princes
Who is like the Lord?
We cannot contain
Cannot contain the glory of Your name
Who is like the Lord?
You took me from the ashes
And healed me of my blindness
Who is like the Lord?
Our intentions are often so good. Yet in our misguided desire to be needed by God, we make God so much less than what She is.
God doesn’t need us to build the new thing. God invites us to be a part of Her building, a building of which we get to be a part.
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